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St. John’s fends off Providence for sixth-straight win

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St Johns UConn Basketball

This is what a good team does to follow up a seismic upset victory.

It builds a big lead against an inferior opponent. When the desperate opponent rallies, it doesn’t wilt and doesn’t take its foot off the gas.

St. John’s showed Saturday it is a good team, winning its sixth straight, 92-81 over Providence at Alumni Hall.

The Red Storm didn’t falter after blowing a 17-point lead. When Providence ripped off a 15-2 run to go up five early in the second half, the Johnnies buckled down. They tightened up their defense and put together a big run of their own, paving the way to their seventh win in eight games, a definitive follow-up to Wednesday’s massive upset of No. 3 Villanova.

Young stars Posh Alexander and Julian Champagnie led the charge in the first half, combining to score 34 points before the break. Champagnie finished with 24 points and Alexander had 21.

Rasheem Dunn, Marcellus Earlington, Dylan Addae-Wusu and Isaih Moore were integral in the second half, producing timely baskets. Most of all, it was the defense, forcing nine turnovers and finding a way to slow down the Friars’ overpowering center, Nate Watson, who managed just six points over the final 16 minutes.

With the victory, St. John’s (13-7, 7-6 Big East) is just now percentage points behind Connecticut for fifth place in the conference and could receive top-25 votes on Monday.

It was a frenetic first half — just the way St. John’s prefers. The two teams had combined for 31 points at the first media timeout. A total of 90 points were scored in the opening 20 minutes. The pace was fast and it led to a load of open 3-pointers for the Red Storm, who made eight of their first 10 and shot a blistering 63 percent in the stanza, notching 13 assists on 17 made field goals.

They ripped off a 19-0 run at one point, building a 17-point lead after 3-pointers by Greg Williams Jr. and Earlington. Still, despite the efforts of Champagnie and Alexander, they only led by eight at the break. Providence (9-10, 5-8) handled the Red Storm’s pressure well, committing just three turnovers, and dominated the paint, with Watson scoring 18 points and Noah Horchler adding 16.

The halftime break didn’t cool off Providence, which erupted for a 15-2 run to start the half and built a five-point lead by owning the paint. Watson scored six points in that burst.

St. John’s defense finally woke up, however, creating deflections and turnovers. Dunn hit back-to-back baskets. Alexander came up with a steal in the backcourt and a layup. The Johnnies reeled off eight straight points to retake the lead and never really looked back.

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